My cousin makes fun of me; she is certain I am the last man alive in these days of e-mail and Face Time that still makes use of the post office. But I use it all the time. I still send letters and postcards and thank you notes and Valentines — I always need a stamp for something. And the first time I put a Harvey Milk stamp on a letter, I was surprised at the emotions it stirred up. Seventy years ago they put us in concentration camps for being gay; fifty years ago they still put us in jail; thirty-five years ago they binged on Twinkies and assassinated us for daring to participate in city government. Now George Takei rules the internet, Ellen is the darling of daytime TV, and they put Harvey Milk on a stamp. Much to the dismay of some Republican lawmakers, we have arrived. It’s enough (apparently) to bring a tear to the eye of a boy who came of age at the height of the AIDS crisis with the fear that just being gay would literally kill him. So when the Finnish post office announced their plans in 2014 to release Tom of Finland stamps, I had to have them. As in, I priced air fare to Helsinki so’s I could go stand in line at a post office and get some.
If you must know, Tom of Finland has never been my favorite artist. I like a nice round butt in tight pants as much as the next guy — probably way more than the next guy, actually — but for the most part his men are too muscled, mustachioed, and leather-daddy-ish for my tastes. Do they all have to wear that hat? But the fact that a whole freakin’ country could recognize Tuoko Laaksonen’s contribution to world culture (the gay part of it, anyway), and celebrate an erotic artist by putting some of his erotic art on stamps, without people feeling the need to rise up and pass a bunch of grandstanding retaliatory laws (one has a butt!) reinforcing their Jesus-mandated prerogative to, I don’t know, use different stamps — or not mail wedding pizzas with them or whatever — was huge, and I wanted in. And only recently did I learn that my friend in New York called her friend in Sweden and asked her, Hey, next time you’re in Finland, could you scoop up some stamps for my friend? A request her pal graciously fulfilled (Tak, Pernilla!), and I got my set in the mail a few weeks ago. They’re gorgeous and kind of sexy and subversive in a history-making way, and they deserve a fate better than getting sifted to the bottom of the pile of
crap priceless memories here next to (and on top of and underneath and behind) my friend’s old dining room table desk, and so off I went with them to Michaels to see about getting a mat cut and getting them into a frame.
To the extent that what I’m about to say could serve any purpose beyond perpetuating stereotypes, I present as gay. Like, as way gay. I look like I’m gay, I talk like I’m gay, I wear pashminas and toenail polish and, because I live with a drag queen, there are days that I leave an actual trail of hot pink glitter in my wake as I flounce through places like Michaels. And in case the people working in the custom framing department weren’t the type to pick up on not-so-subtle social cues, yesterday I was also waving around a sheet of stamps emblazoned with a naked guy and his butt saying “Frame these!”. First an unflappable young man offered help. When I told him I was hoping for a custom-cut mat to fit a ready-made frame, he assessed my artwork without comment, suggested a nice blue, and then produced a stack of mats from which to choose. While we were weighing the options, his co-worker approached the table. She saw what we were working with, and sure enough, she had something to say about it. Continue reading